On the copperplate trail in Andhra
Dániel Balogh shares with us below some extracts of his travel notebook. Following the DHARMA Pondicherry workshop that took place in Pondicherry in January, he travelled in the Eastern Deccan in order to document copper-plate charters of the Eastern or Veṅgī Cālukya dynasty at museums, and to visit sites associated with these rulers.
Although my time was limited, and establishing contact with institutions in advance before turning up at one in person has been difficult, the trip has been a very successful one thanks to the flexibility and goodwill of many officials and scholars I encountered on the way. Here follows a brief account of the key moments.
According to published catalogues, the Government Museum in Chennai (Tamil Nadu) preserves no fewer than 44 copperplate grants of the Veṅgī Cālukyas. However, some of these may have been moved to other museums in the meantime, and others seem to be inaccessibly locked away. Nonetheless, thanks to the good offices of Thiru S. Panneerselvam, I was able to photograph 12 sets of plates here. Travelling from Chennai to Andhra Pradesh, I stopped briefly at the town of Addanki and the nearby village of Dharmavaram, formerly the core territory of Pāṇḍaraṅga, who was one of the most powerful underlords of the Cālukyas in the ninth century.
The remnants of the Bhimalingeswara Swamy temple, Dharmavaram (near Addanki in southern Andhra Pradesh)
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, largely overlapping the erstwhile domain of the Veṅgī Cālukyas, I could access a further 26 copperplate inscriptions in four separate locations. This was made possible through the kind permissions of Smt. Vani Mohan of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, and of Dr. Gopinath Jena of the Archaeological Survey of India, and facilitated by the able support of Sri Surya Prakash in Amaravati and Sri Thimmaraju in Eluru, Rajahmundry and Kakinada. I was particularly delighted to be shown around in a brand new museum, not yet open to the public, in the town Eluru, a mere 10 kilometres to the south of the former capital city of Veṅgī (now the village of Pedavegi).
Tea served without a silver platter, but with a side of copper plates in the ASI Museum, Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
In the company of the kind staff of the Andhra Sahitya Parishad Museum in Kakinada
Very few monuments associated with the Veṅgī Cālukyas survive in a relatively intact state, but I was fortunate enough to visit some of those few in the village of Bikkavolu (East Godavari District). Here, in addition to an active temple that has been expanded repeatedly since Cālukyan times, there are three small temples where worship has ceased, and which are now protected monuments little changed since their construction.
One of the Cālukyan Śiva temples in Bikkavolu
I also visited two large temple complexes in the vicinity of Kakinada where Cālukya-period structures and ornamentation are surrounded by several layers of later additions, namely the Kumārārāma Bhīmeśvara temple in Samarlakota and the Bhavanārāyaṇa temple in Sarpavaram on the outskirts of Kakinada. The former was probably founded by the Eastern Cālukya ruler Bhīma I around the turn of the tenth century; the latter’s core edifice follows the same plan, but has been overshadowed by more recent expansion.
Architectural and sculptural detail of the Kumārārāma Bhīmeśvara temple in Samarlakota.
I ended my travels in the city of Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana State which was separated from the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. In the State Archaeology Museum here, I photographed 10 further grants of the Veṅgī Cālukyas with the support of Dr. P. Nagaraju.
At the Telangana State Archaeology Museum in Hyderabad
Among the nearly fifty sets of Eastern Cālukya copper plates documented in the course of this trip, there are 19 that have never been edited before in an internationally accessible publication (some of these being published in Telugu journals, others not at all), so that the DHARMA digital editions I intend to prepare in due course will be the first. A further 12 have been published with incomplete or poor-quality facsimiles or without any visual documentation whatsoever, so their DHARMA re-editions will be improved (in some cases substantially) with the aid of the new photographs.
Text and photos: Dániel Balogh